Ontario university research into autism expanding as a result of the province's Autism Scholars Awards

TORONTO, June 24, 2014  /CNW/ - University research into whether people with autism are more vulnerable to physical and sexual assault, and whether one-on-one or group therapy is more effective for autistic children, will be expanded as a result of the Ontario government's 2014 Autism Scholars Awards.

Two York University researchers – Michelle Viecili and Azin Taheri – will receive awards of $20,000 and $18,000 respectively from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to conduct research into the disorder, which is estimated to affect one in 88 children.

"We know that the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has increased significantly," says Max Blouw, President of Wilfrid Laurier University and Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), which administers the Autism Scholars Awards. "These awards will increase Ontario's capacity to diagnose children and to improve our ability to offer the best treatments."

Michelle Viecili, who receives the Doctoral Award, will study how well people with autism can quickly and accurately detect a sexual threat, and how they respond once they have done so. She will also examine whether those with a history of sexual victimization notice or respond to a new threat differently.

The study seeks to answer important questions about interpersonal violence that may help prevent further abuse of those with an autism disorder, and even those who do not have autism. It will also provide information on how to create treatment programs for those who have been victimized.

Azin Taheri, who receives the Master's Award, will compare individual home-based Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) with group or classroom-based IBI, and examine whether factors such as the age of the child and the severity of autism are variables.

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services funds IBI. Taheri hopes her research will ensure children with autism are receiving the highest quality treatment.

"Ontario universities thank the Ontario government for supporting our talented scholars," says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO. "This kind of investment will help ensure the province attracts and retains the brightest scholars in autism, and other fields so important to so many people."

COU is a membership organization of 21 publicly assisted universities in Ontario. It works closely with the provincial and federal governments to shape public policies that help universities deliver high-quality programs for students and advance the research and innovation that improves the social, cultural and economic well-being of Ontarians.

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SOURCE: Council of Ontario Universities

For further information: Wendy McCann, Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations, Telephone: 416-979-2165 x233, Cell phone: 647-271-0825, Email Wendy McCann: wmccann@cou.on.ca

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